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Boston on the cheap...

I am headed to a meeting in Boston the first week in June, and thanks to some free tickets from US Air and a crazy schedule of June east coast trips, I get to spend two days there with hubby and no obligations other than showing him the city (He's never been there; this is my fourth or fifth trip...). We have already agreed that we will save our "nice" dinners out for later in the week when there are several obligatory group dinners with my colleagues....but that doesn't mean we can't eat well those days I'm not on an expense account, does it? DH is feeling the pinch of several upcoming (big) expenses, and has agreed to go on the condition that we keep it low cost. I know the hounds will come through for me....I'm looking for any food type, any ethnic, anywhere accessible by public transportation. We'll be staying in Back Bay, but I'm sure we'll be trying to see as much of the city as possible (Also DH will be exploring for a couple of days on his own while I'm in meetings....). Suggestions for Cambridge also welcome....looking for breakfast, lunch AND dinner suggestions...

Also, DH is coming in on the red eye, and since I will be traveling from Charlotte to meet him (that crazy meeting schedule again...) I will arrive a couple of hours after him in the morning. Any suggestions for good places for him to have breakfast at or near the airport? It will be too early for him to check in to the hotel.....

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  1. I'm thinking Shabu Zen on Tyler St in Chinatown for hot pot cooking; Regina's in the North End for a pizza followed by a stroll and a pastry from Maria's, Modern or Mike's. Then I would probably opt for either the meatloaf or mac & cheese from Silvertone's in Downtown Crossing area.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Pegmeister

      For a multi-course progressive low cost lunch you could work Galleria Umberto in after Regina, for an arancini.

      1. re: nsenada

        For yet another course, you could also hit James Hook for a lobster sandwich (haven't been since the fire, assume they still have them) and sit out on Rowes Wharf.

      2. re: Pegmeister

        Funny the way things work: the only chowhound suggestion we made it to was Regina's, followed by the pastry from Maria's. Funny because I'm not a pizza fan. But DH is, and it was that or one of the numerous Pizzeria Uno's around town (DH spent a lot of time in Chicago....)...and I really dislike deep dish. But enjoyed Regina's, as much for the break after a long walk on the Freedom trail, the cold beer, and the waitresses as for the pizza...it is pretty good, however (for pizza....). The pastry was great, of course.

        Most of our time was spent wandering, with stops wherever things "looked good.". We had some great mango ice cream in Back Bay (wish I could remember the name of the place; a local chain with two names...), and some ok Thai Food there as well. We walked for two miles looking for the Kebab Factory in Cambridge (for dosa as suggested below...)...never did find it. Turned out we had the wrong address. We ended up at another Indian place that shall go unmentioned and unremembered....not good at all....sigh.....I'm sure by that point we were way out of Cambridge (which was a little crazy anyway; it turned out to be Graduation Day at Harvard.......)

        DH flew home Sat. and I had one more day of meetings Sunday which got cancelled...so I had a day to play. I had my friend convinced to go with me for dim sum, but then she woke up with the flu. I ended up going back to Cambridge, where I had some sticky rice (a traditional dish) at the Dragon Boat Festival on the Charles, and found a nice little Farmer's Market....I thought of the thread about TSA as I bought up all the garlic scapes in sight (something only dreamed of in Vegas) to take home to DH for his famous green garlic chutney......I was afraid they might be confiscated as illegal vegetable material, but they made it home safely.....

        Not low price, but we had a fun group dinner at Sonsie's. Its admittedly terminally hip, but it was a fun place to eat and watch basketball. And the food was quite good, although the servings were ridiculously large. Best beet salad I've had in ages.....

        1. re: janetofreno

          I'm assuming the ice cream was at Emack & Bolio's and not JP Licks.
          Yay, a positive review for Sonsie.

          1. re: Joanie

            Yep, that was it: Emack and Bolio's.....The mango was very good. The counter person told us that the owner imports the mangos from Calcutta. This of course prompted DH to start a discussion on the virtues of Calcuttan mangoes vs. those from Gujarat.....fortunately business was slow and she was willing to "chat".....

        2. re: Pegmeister

          What makes Boston/North End pizza unique?

          Here in Los Angeles there's a chain called "North End" and Boston style pizza always sounded like an odd curiosity to me. Bear in mind that I'm from New Jersey, so I'm very familiar with the style of pizza found there and in NYC.

          Mr Taster

          1. re: Mr Taster

            I always hesitate to answer about pizza because it's such a personal preference. In the North End the original Regina's brick oven makes the difference. Tender, medium crusts with slightly charred bubbles when you ask for it well done. I also like that they have some nice olive oil to pour on when it's served. On the other hand, also in the North End, Artu's serves some of my very favorite thin, crisp crust pizzas with toppings such as shrimp scampi; sausage & broccoli rabe or eggplant with roasted peppers and riccota. If you like the New York Style, you can find a good version at the Waterfront Cafe, also in the North End. For me, dare I say it, I'm not sure there really is a North End or Boston style pizza.

        3. Hi JofR. I've enjoyed your posts. Several low price CH favorites

          Allston: Jo Jo Taipei (Taiwanese), Gitlo's dim sum, Carlos Cucina (Italian)
          Brookline Dok Bua (Thai), Michale Deli (Corned beef/pastrami), Shiki (interesting Japanese , a little pricier)
          Cambridge: Zoe's (Northern Chinese) Petsi's pies, O'Sullivans (Burgers) out of teh way but all near each other on Beacon street near Sacramento)
          Chinatown: East Ocean City, Peach Farm, King Fung, Taiwan cafe, Winsor Dim Sum

          1. Allston: YoMa (Burmese)N. Beacon Street, S&I (Thai) Brighton Ave
            Cambridge: Courthouse Fish (Fried Seafood) Cambridge St.
            Chinatown: Hei La Moon (dim sum) Beech St., HongKong Eatery (noodles/rice plates)
            South End: South End Formaggio (A hunk of cheese & loaf of bread, there's a park nearby) Shawmut Ave, Red Sea (Ethiopian) Tremont St.

            1 Reply
            1. re: qianning

              I'd say anything in Allston (also throw in Camino Real, Deep Ellum, Cafe Brazil).
              Miracle of Science by Central Sq. Cambridge, Bartley's Burgers in Harvard Sq. Green ST. in Central Sq. is fun.
              Petit Robert Bistro in the South End or Kenmore Sq. Audobon outside Kenmore.
              Deluxe in the south end. Marliave downtown.

              No idea about breakfast in the airport or area.

            2. all great suggestions, i would also add Cafe Mami (non-sushi casual Japanese) in Porter Exchange (Red line, Porter stop), Sam LaGrassa's (downtown, Red line, Park stop) for pastrami/corned beef sandwiches, Eastern Standard (Green line, Kenmore stop ) for cocktails/brasserie fare, Malay Satay Hut (Chinatown) for roti canai and satay, Scampo (if you order carefully) (Red line Charles/MGH stop), Kebab Factory (Cambridge) for dosa

              2 Replies
              1. You should try getting brunch at China Pearl in Chinatown. Huge selection. It's a great dim sum place.

                1. Right in Back Bay you have Parish (sandwiches) and Other Side Cafe (beer, porch), and I would suggest Trident Booksellers or Espresso Royale (both on Newbury) for your husband's down time after his flight.

                  1. For breakfast near the airport, there's Scups on one of the piers in East Boston. They open at 10 am and have a website for directions. They are also reachable via water taxi. Also for breakfast is Charlie's Sandwich Shop in the South End, a Boston must.

                    A delicious an inexpensive lunch can be had at Galeria Umberto in the North End.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: chuck s

                      Scups is a GREAT place if the timing is right, BUT it's in a very unusual location (and Eastie isn't the easiest place to drive, especially from the airport, without good directions and a map!) so do your research...He might be able to walk from the terminals, or you could give them a call and see if they have tips for a taxi driver...

                      1. re: fredid

                        agreed. I *LIVE* in eastie, and I still get lost here.

                      2. re: chuck s

                        The suggestions have been great...I've been to China Pearl before and love dim sum...but DH isn't a fan. Maybe I'll work on him...Unfortunately, I was talking someplace open around 7am for breakfast...his flight lands before 7.....

                        Or maybe he'll just want to crash on an airport chair...:-)

                      3. Low-cost Cambridge itinerary: Wander around Harvard Square. Get slices from Pizza Oggi in the Holyoke Center, and frozen yogurt from Berryline or a tiny hot chocolate from Burdick's (it's very rich, the little demitasse size is plenty). Or, skip the pizza and on your way past Berryline, continue down the street to Central Square or take the #1 bus down Mass Ave. Stop at the Buddhist Center and get their lunch special. Continue down Mass Ave through Central and end up at Toscanini's (between Central and MIT) for a burnt caramel cone (or any flavor, I just think the burnt caramel is the best thing you can possibly eat anywhere). See a movie at Kendall Square Theater or head toward the river, tour MIT, and walk along the Charles.

                        1. Chinatown and Union Square, Allston are GREAT bets for low-cost, interesting food. Another Allston place , for instance, that I think no-one has mentioned, is Shabghai Gate - just wonderful!

                          Allston is a 15-20 minute ride from Back Bay;a similar distance on the Orange Line will bring you to Malden Center and Habesha, with terrific Ethiopian food (low-key atmosphere) and world-class Sichuan at FuLoon. And of course! A five minute subway ride (+ short walk) from Govt Center , is Angela's, who hails from Puebla and makes her mole from scratch!

                          Angela's also has breakfast (American and some Mexican) and is a short shuttle + walk from the airport, for your hub.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: fredid

                            fredid meant Shanghai Gate in case you need to do a search on it.


                          2. I'm a big fan of Brasserie JO on Huntington -- down the street from the Marriott Copley Place. http://www.brasseriejoboston.com/ I don't know if it qualifies as "low cost", but I consider it good value. Their Hansi Onion Tart is one of my all-time favorite dishes.

                            As for Regina's, I was not impressed (donning asbestos suit). Good crust, OK sauce, jarred garlic. You can get better pizza back home in LV, at Metro.

                            Brasserie JO
                            120 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02116

                            1. if he's waiting for you at the airport and he's a big breakfast eater, i'd check the airport hotels to see if they have a buffet breakfast (Hyatt or Hilton) - he can shuttle/walk to them and come back to meet you. If he is meeting you in the Back Bay, i'd suggest the same: maybe the buffet breakfast at the Marriot in Copley Square, where he can also find good sitting places to read hisnewspaper! If he's meeting you in town and wants something "funkier" but convenient to the Back Bay, Trident Book on Newbury, Charlies on Tremont, or Mike's Diner (on Washington I think) are all reasonably "Back Bay" friendly and all have good breakfast.

                              1. I'm visiting Boston in September (from Los Angeles) and so I have a keen interest in this topic too.

                                Just wondering why nobody has mentioned Speed's hot dog cart as the quintessential cheap Boston eats? Is that because it's not accessible by public transport?

                                Also, is it possible to get an $8 lobster roll like the kind I've heard you can get from shacks in Maine, or am I stuck with the $25 platter at Neptune Oyster? (I'll pay it... I'd just prefer to go to a great inexpensive hole-in-the-wall)

                                Mr Taster

                                9 Replies
                                  1. re: smtucker

                                    It's not a $7 hot dog, it's a $7 meal. A unique and delicious meal to boot.

                                    1. re: foodscience

                                      Whoa, $7 for a hot dog/meal? What exactly is included with this price? How big is the dog? And is it accessible by public transportation?

                                      Still no ideas on a great $8 lobster roll, eh?

                                      Mr Taster

                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                        Here's a link to a pic..http://www.hollyeats.com/Speeds.htm It's an old link and Speed has retired but you get a look at the dog. I think they include a few napkins..:) I think it's well worth the price. If you have a travelling companion, you could probably split 1 and get the gist of it. It' accessible by Red Line to Andrews Sq and a short, unappeaing walk over the xpway. Bus transportation gets you closer and maybe someone can provide bus directions. Andrews Square T also gets you to Cafe Polonia and Baltic Mkt..Worth alook andmaybe pick up a few snacks.

                                        I don't know of an $8 lobster roll. James Hook on Atlantic Ave makes a $12 roll. They are Boston's largest lobster dealers with a few picnic benches. Only problem is they premake them and don't toast the roll. Mercato de Mare on Salem St in the North End advertises a $15 roll on a toasted bun. They are a fish market and have no seating but down the street from Neptune.I haven't tried it but everything else I've had there is high quality. If it's a nice day, have a few oysters at Neptune and then get a lobster roll at mercato and eat in a nearby park? People speak well of Belle Island's lobster roll, but I haven't been and don't know how T accessible it is.

                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                          It really is worth the $7. I'm not able to finish one. The draw IMO are the homemade sauces. As for the $8 lobster roll, I would be surprised. You may be able to find a decent one for $15. In the Fanueil Hall area a lot of the Irish pubs offer lobster specials, listed on blackboard stands outside their establishments. If you have a car and don't mind driving to Quincy you could always go to Tony's or the Clam Box, both clam shacks (across from the beach) have decent lobster rolls, great whole belly clams and onion rings.

                                          1. re: Mr Taster

                                            Attached is a photo I took. I guess you can't really judge the size...but it's completely worth 7 bucks.

                                            And yeah...I went with a friend for a snack once, and we just split one and it was perfect.

                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                              Speed's is about a 5-10 min walk from the #1 Mass Ave. bus and the #10 (out of Copley Sq.) leaves you at the end of the little road that leads you there. It's not too far from the Mass Ave. stop on the silver line.

                                              There are cheap lobster rolls at Charlie's in Harvard Sq. which get okay/eh reviews. Also the lobster sandwich at Alive n Kickin on Putnam St. in Cambridgeport. The Legal lobster roll includes fries and slaw but has gotten less than thrilling reports lately, including when I had one last year. Kingfish Hall in Fanueil Hall has gotten decent reports. None for $8 tho.

                                              1. re: Joanie

                                                bahn mi chinatown
                                                pork bun eldo
                                                annas burritos
                                                federal beacon hill pulled pork
                                                sullivan castle island can not miss
                                                jumbo seafood chinatown 4.95 lunch yum
                                                I eat cheep but i eat well

                                        2. re: Mr Taster

                                          I regretted not ordering the $10 lobster roll at La Luna Caffe in Central Square today when I saw someone's plate go by. It looked delicious.

                                          Charlie's in Harvard Square has two rolls for $11 and they are ok.